Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England

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Chronicon Henrici Knighton, R. S., Vol. 92, pt. 2, pp. 131–150. World History

151.

The Peasants’ Rebellion

In the year 1381, the second of the reign of King Richard Second, during the month of May, on Wednesday, the fourth day after the feast of Trinity, that impious band began to assemble from Kent, from Surrey, and from many other surrounding places. Apprentices also, leaving their masters, rushed to join these. And So they gathered on Blackheath, where, forgetting themselves in their multitude, and neither contented with their former cause nor appeased by smaller crimes, they unmercifully planned greater and worse evils and determined not to desist from their wicked undertaking until they should have entirely extirpated the nobles and great men of the kingdom.

Liberation of John Ball

So at first they directed their course of iniquity to a certain town of the archbishop of Canterbury called Maidstone, in which there was a jail of the said archbishop, and in the said jail was a certain John Ball, a chaplain who was considered among the laity to be a very famous preacher; many times in the past he had foolishly spread abroad the word of God, by mixing tares with wheat, too pleasing to the laity and extremely dangerous to the liberty of ecclesiastical law and order, execrably introducing into the church of Christ many errors among the clergy and laymen. For this reason he had been tried as a clerk and convicted in accordance with the law, being seized and assigned to this same jail for his permanent abiding place. On the Wednesday before the feast of the Consecration they came into Surrey to the jail of the king at Marshalsea, where they broke the jail without delay, forcing all imprisoned there to come with them to help them; and whomsoever they met, whether pilgrims or others of whatever condition, they forced to go with them.

On the Friday following the feast of the Consecration they came over the bridge to London; here no one resisted them, although, as was said, the citizens of London knew of their advance a long time before; and so they directed their way to the Tower where the king was surrounded by a great throng of knights, esquires, and others It was said that there were in the Tower about one hundred and fifty knights together with one hundred and eighty others, with the mother of the king, the duchess of Britanny, and many other ladies; and there was present, also, Henry, earl of Derby, son of John, duke of Lancaster, who was still a youth; so, too, Simon of Sudbury, archbishop of Canterbury and chancellor of England, and brother Robert de Hales, prior of the Hospital of England and treasurer of the king.

John Leg and a certain John, a Minorite, a man active in warlike deeds, skilled in natural sciences, an intimate friend of Lord John, duke of Lancaster, hastened with three others to the Tower for refuge, intending to hide themselves under the wings of the king. The people had determined to kill the archbishop and the others above mentioned with him; for this reason they came to this place, and afterwards they fulfilled their vows. The king, however, desired to free the archbishop and his friends from the jaws of the wolves, so he sent to the people a command to assemble outside the city, at a place called Mile End, in order to speak with the king and to treat with him concerning their designs. The soldiers who were to go forward, consumed with folly, lost heart, and gave up, on the way, their boldness of purpose. Nor did they dare to advance, but, unfortunately, struck as they were by fear, like women, kept themselves within the Tower.

Conference at Mile End

But the king advanced to the assigned place, while many of the wicked mob kept following him. . . . More, however, remained where they were. When the others had come to the king they complained that they had been seriously oppressed by many hardships and that their condition of servitude was unbearable, and that they neither could nor would endure it longer. The king, for the sake of peace, and on account of the violence of the times, yielding to their petition, granted to them a charter with the great seal, to the effect that all men in the kingdom of England should be free and of free condition, and should remain both for themselves and their heirs free from all kinds of servitude and villeinage forever. This charter was rejected and decided to be null and void by the king and the great men of the kingdom in the parliament held at Westminster in the same year, after the feast of St. Michael.

Execution of the archbishop

While these things were going on, behold those degenerate sons, who still remained, summoned their father the archbishop with his above-mentioned friends without any force or attack, without sword or arrow, or any other form of compulsion, but only with force of threats and excited outcries, inviting those men to death. But they did not cry out against it for themselves, nor resist, but, as sheep before the shearers, going forth barefooted with uncovered heads, ungirt, they offered themselves freely to an undeserved death, just as if they had deserved this punishment for some murder or theft. And so, alas! before the king returned, seven were killed at Tower Hill, two of them lights of the kingdom, the worthy with the unworthy. John Leg and his three associates were the cause of this irreparable loss. Their heads were fastened on spears and sticks in order that they might be told from the rest. . . .

Whatever representatives of the law they found or whatever men served the kingdom in a judicial capacity, these they slew without delay.

Conference at Smithfield

On the following day, which was Saturday, they gathered in Smithfield, where there came to them in the morning the king, who although only a youth in years yet was in wisdom already well versed. Their leader, whose real name was Wat Tyler, approached him; already they were calling him by the other name of Jack Straw. He kept close to the king, addressing him for the rest. He carried in his hand an unsheathed weapon which they call a dagger, and, as if in childish play, kept tossing it from one hand to the other in order that he might seize the opportunity, if the king should refuse his requests, to strike the king suddenly (as was commonly believed); and from this thing the greatest fear arose among those about the king as to what might be the outcome.

They begged from the king that all the warrens, and as well waters as park and wood, should be common to all, so that a poor man as well as a rich should be able freely to hunt animals everywhere in the kingdom, — in the streams, in the fish ponds, in the woods, and in the forest; and that he might be free to chase the hare in the fields, and that he might do these things and others like them without objection. When the king hesitated about granting this concession Jack Straw came nearer, and, speaking threatening words, seized with his hand the bridle of the horse of the king very daringly. When John de Walworth, a citizen of London, saw this, thinking that death threatened the king, he seized a sword and pierced Jack Straw in the neck. Seeing this, another soldier, by name Radulf Standyche, pierced his side with another sword. He sank back, slowly letting go with his hands and feet, and then died. A great cry and much mourning arose: "Our leader is slain." When this dead man had been meanly dragged along by the hands and feet into the church of St. Bartholomew, which was near by, many withdrew from the band, and, vanishing, betook themselves to flight, to the number it is believed of ten thousand. . . .

Executions

After these things had happened and quiet had been restored, the time came when the king caused the offenders to be punished. So Lord Robert Tresillian, one of the judges, was sent by order of the king to inquire into the uprisings against the peace and to punish the guilty. Wherever he came he spared no one, but caused great slaughter. And just as those evil doers plotted in hostile manner against the judges, Lord John de Candishe and any others they could find, by bringing them to capital punishment, and against all those skilled in the laws of the country whom they could reach, and not sparing any one of them, but punishing them by capital punishment, just so this judge spared no one, but demanded misfortune for misfortune. For whoever was accused before him in this said cause, whether justly or as a matter of spite, he immediately passed upon him the sentence of death. He ordered some to be beheaded, others to be hanged, still others to be dragged through the city and banged in four different parts thereof; others to be disemboweled, and the entrails to be burned before them while they were still alive, and afterwards to be decapitated, quartered, and hanged in four parts of the city according to the greatness of the crime and its desert. John Ball was captured at Coventry and led to St. Alban’s, where, by order of the king, he was drawn and hanged, then quartered, and his quarters sent to four different places.

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Chicago: "The Peasants’ Rebellion," Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England in Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, ed. Edward Potts Cheyney (1861-1947) (Boston: Ginn, 1935, 1922), 261–265. Original Sources, accessed September 23, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CKF2NUJL9IPSBQF.

MLA: . "The Peasants’ Rebellion." Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, in Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, edited by Edward Potts Cheyney (1861-1947), Boston, Ginn, 1935, 1922, pp. 261–265. Original Sources. 23 Sep. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CKF2NUJL9IPSBQF.

Harvard: , 'The Peasants’ Rebellion' in Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England. cited in 1922, Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, ed. , Ginn, 1935, Boston, pp.261–265. Original Sources, retrieved 23 September 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CKF2NUJL9IPSBQF.